Senior citizens make important contributions to their families, their communities, and our society at large. While most are in good mental health, many older Americans are at risk for developing mental health disorders. According to the Center for Disease Control, mental health disorders affect about 20% of older adults in the United States. These disorders can be overlooked because symptoms manifest differently among seniors and are not as easy to spot.
Elderly individuals experience stressors of life, as do people of all ages. But they may have additional stressors that come with aging. Some common stressors for older seniors are physical like chronic pain, long-term illness, frailty, decline in mobility or other functional abilities. They also have life experiences that can take a toll on mental wellbeing: bereavement of loved ones, feelings of isolation or disconnection from others, financial challenges after retirement, loss of independence. Other situations like alcohol or substance abuse, medication interactions, or poor diet/malnutrition can lead to mental health challenges for seniors as well.
The most common mental health disorder for older individuals is dementia (including Alzheimer’s), which is a cognitive impairment. But depression, anxiety, hoarding, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders also affect seniors.
As loved ones and as caregivers, we have to pay close attention to seniors’ behavior changes. Noticing changes in behavior can help determine if there may be a mental health concern. The following are some warning signs to look for:
- Depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, helplessness, and thoughts of suicide
- Decrease or increase in appetite; drastic changes in weight
- Changes in appearance or manner of dressing
- Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making
This may seem like a lot to look out for, particularly during this time of social distancing. Everyone’s moods are fluctuating throughout the hardship of a pandemic and you may be seeing your aging loved one less frequently in order to limit risks of exposure. When you can, be aware of changes in attitude or behavior to spot signs your senior may need help. Contact a doctor if your loved one does demonstrate symptoms.
If you would like a compassionate caregiver to be a social companion for your loved one and help monitor mental health, a professional home care service agency can help. Passionate Private Duty is a reputable agency providing home services and nursing care services in Pingree Grove, Illinois and surrounding communities.